Muslims in Karnataka protest Hijab ban verdict by observing shutdown

Muslims in Karnataka protest Hijab ban verdict by observing shutdown

KARNATAKA — The Karnataka High Court verdict that declared Hijab a non-essential religious practice in Islam has sparked outrage in the Muslim community across the country.

On Thursday many parts of Karnataka including the capital city Bengaluru observed a shutdown to protest the court verdict. The call for shutdown was issued by various Muslim groups in the state who questioned the court’s right to wade into theological issues.

Anas Tanvir, a Supreme Court lawyer, said that the reasoning of the judgment of the Karnataka High Court is flawed. He said the way the court’s analysis of religious scriptures is misconstrued. “It shows the court was devoid of proper assistance in this matter.”

Navida Asadi, a women’s rights activist in Karnataka said that the Muslim groups are mulling to file a joint petition in the Supreme Court to challenge the High Court verdict.

One petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the court ruling. However, the apex court declined to grant an urgent hearing on the plea and said it will look into the matter after the Holi vacations.

Hundreds of school and college-going students have missed their year-end exams after the court ordered an interim ban on Hijab in February.

The court verdict has made students feel dejected, Asadi said.

“While some students do not want to lose a year of studies and have taken off the Hijab others have boycotted the exams altogether,” she said.

Many Muslim women that spoke with said that they were shocked to hear the verdict. “We were hopeful and believed that the court would pronounce a just judgment,” they said. Many others said that they feel like they have been stripped of their constitutional rights.

Over the last two months, the controversy around the Hijab, in at least three government-run institutions of Karnataka, has left Muslim students disheartened after several Hindu students started demanding that the Hijab should not be allowed in the schools. The controversy started in late December last year after a teacher at a pre-university (PU) College in the Udupi district refused entry of Hijab wearing students inside a classroom.

The picture of the girls sitting on the stairs of the PU College went viral on social networking sites triggering a backlash.

Later, scores of right-wing Hindu students clad in saffron shawls created ruckus in the college campus in Udupi demanding that the Hijab be banned in the schools and colleges.

Wednesday’s court verdict has now further complicated the situation of the Muslim girls who expected relief after the interim court ban.

Aliya Meher, a pre-university college student said that she missed her classes and exams after the interim ban and expected the court to make a just ruling. However, she said, she was disheartened. “I will prefer to stay home rather than go to school without a Hijab,” she said.

Another pre-university college student said that she will appear in the exams without Hijab and spoke to on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t want to lose a precious academic year and hence will appear in the exams without Hijab.” She further said that she will continue to fight for the Hijab and will support the groups that will take the case to Supreme Court.

Shehzad Mulla, the Karnataka state president of the Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), said that there is deep anger among the Muslim masses in the state. He said the verdict spends most of its time arguing that the wearing of the hijab is not an essential practice in Islam.

“The questions raised by the petitioners asking the court to examine if Hijab was an impediment to pursuing education have not been answered,” he said.

Mulla said that the petitioners had already mentioned that Hijab was an essential religious practice and therefore wanted the court to examine if it was an impediment in the “right to education”. “The court did not respond to the questions raised in the petition and instead came up with a judgment on ‘essential practice’.”

The President of the Campus Front of India, MS Sajid, took to Twitter to express his displeasure. He wrote, “Karnataka HC denies the constitutional rights of the citizens. We never accept the verdict that stands against the constitution and will continue the fight against the attempts to suppress individual rights. We appeal to the secular-minded to join this constitutional fight.”

Hiba Sheik (18) who became the face of Muslim women for the fight for hijab after she was confronted by a right-wing Hindu youth group, said that Muslim women’s rights have been violated by the verdict. “We will continue our struggle legally and democratically,” Sheik said.

Students Collective Bangalore in a statement on Thursday said that the verdict has exacerbated the already precarious academic lives of students and further pushed them into crisis. “It is further deliberately leaving out marginalized communities from accessing affordable education.”

Muhammad Raafi |


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